Maryland's Olney Theatre Center is currently presenting a staging of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man featuring an ensemble and creative team of Deaf, hearing, and hard-of-hearing artists.
Deaf actor James Caverly, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu's Only Murders in the Building, stars as Harold Hill, while Deaf performer Sandra Mae Frank and Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma Artistic Director Michael Baron co-direct. All shows are performed in ASL and spoken English and open-captioned.
PBS NewsHour recently profiled the production, which officially opened June 29 and continues through July 24.
Caverly was an aspiring actor—and a staff carpenter in Olney Theatre’s scene shop—when he saw Deaf West’s 2015 production of Spring Awakening on Broadway. He subsequently approached Artistic Director Jason Loewith about the prospect of a Deaf-centered musical at Olney.
Caverly tells PBS, "What I really wanted was—let's shatter that perception that disabled people can only play roles that are designed or written for disabled people." His idea was subsequently tested in a March 2019 week-long workshop that brought together a mix of 25 Deaf and hearing artists for a production of The Music Man.
Watch the complete profile—which includes footage from the rehearsal period, which employed see-through COVID masks so the non-hearing actors could read lips and see facial expressions—in the video above. The broadcast also includes performance highlights and interviews with the creative team.
Participants in the aforementioned workshop returning to work on the current production include music director Christopher Youstra, choreographer Karma Camp, and Director of Artistic Sign Language Michelle Banks. Banks has also translated the English script for The Music Man into ASL and gestural language and provides artistic contributions informed by their experience of Deaf Culture. Along with Frank and set designer Ethan Sinnott, Banks is one of three Deaf artists on the creative team, leading a company that is 50% Deaf or hard of hearing and 50% hearing actors. More than a dozen sign interpeters were employed for the rehearsal period.
The cast also features Adelina Mitchell (A.D. 16) as Marian, Vishal Vaidya (Groundhog Day) as Marcellus and also the vocalizations in the songs of Harold Hill, Florrie Bagel (Peter Pan) as Ethel Toffelmeier and the Marian understudy, Heather Marie Beck (Joseph…) as Alma Hicks, Amelia Hensley as Eulalie Shinn, Matthew August as Tommy, Gregor Lopes as Olinn Britt, Andrew Morrill as Mayor Shinn, Anjel Piñero as Woman #1, Mervin Primeaux-O'Bryant as Maude Dunlap, Nicki Runge as Mrs. Paroo, Christopher Tester as Oliver Hicks, and Dylan Toms as Ewart Dunlop with ensemble members Jay Frisby (Miss You Like Hell) and Sarah Anne Sillers (Singin’ in the Rain). Swings include Sophia Early, Aarron Loggins, Jane Enabore, and Stephen Russell Murray.
Youstra conducts a 10-piece orchestra that also joins in on the barbershop quartet for “Lida Rose."
The creative team also includes costume designer Rosemary Pardee, lighting designer Jesse Belsky, Olney resident sound designer Matt Rowe, projections designer Sean Preston, and stage manager Ben Walsh.
A revival of The Music Man—starring Tony winners Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster—currently plays Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre.
For ticket information click here.
Check out production photos below: